Don’t look back

31 12 2020

Although here Storm is looking back at another stallion and his band across a steep, deep arroyo, let’s turn our faces forward, away from the global chaos that was 2020.

As another calendar year spreads its as-yet blank days before us, there’s no way to know what lies ahead. A list of “funnies” sent recently by a friend included this gem: “We can all agree that in 2015 not a single person got the answer correct to (this): ‘Where do you see yourself five years from now?'”

Some thrive on chaos – and causing it – and others seek to be the peaceful, quiet power that moves through the days, keeping friends and family close, seeing the beauty (not the drought) in sunny skies, treasuring the clouds (that hold the drought at bay), knowing that in even the smallest, meanest things, there is beauty to behold.

We can be the chaos, or we can be the peace. Maybe sometimes, a little shakeup is good (even if it takes a while to learn the fullness of it); in many times, peace is a balm.

Look forward. See beauty. Know peace.

Happy New Year.

12 from 2020

30 12 2020

It seems to be a *thing* for people to highlight memories from the year as the year comes to a close. It’s natural to want to remember those beautiful times, which our photos are particularly primed to help us do. That’s the ultimate goodness of *pictures*.

Over the years, I’ve gotten away from long, rambling explanations and photo-heavy blog posts in favor of single photos and a sprinkling of words – every day – to highlight a moment in a day on the range with the mustangs. So today’s post, at the end of a long year that challenged our endurance, is a way to give a little better explanation of what was happening in the instant the shutter snapped on that moment. They also serve as a challenge to find ways to show my beloved mustangs in their natural beauty … and all the infinite reasons why they should be valued and preserved (in general), in addition to explaining why I do what I do to protect this herd in Spring Creek Basin (in particular).

What follows is one photo for each month. Some have been on the blog previously; others have not. Onward.


In January, we had fresh snow, and I was happy to find Hollywood’s band in the scenic eastern part of the basin, a short hike from the road (I may even have strapped on my snowshoes). McKenna Peak and Temple Butte are iconic landmarks, and I love to feature them in photos behind/above the horses. Because of the way they were standing, however, Brumley Point, seen here, made the obvious background (the peak and butte are farther to the left). Even though Shane had her rear toward me, the horses were so relaxed, their winter coats so velvety thick and glowing in the low winter sunshine, their demeanor so peaceful, this became one of my favorite images of the day (and month).



We knew we were in trouble early in the winter when Mother Nature simply didn’t give us the amount of snow – aka moisture – we would need for the rest of the year. … For plants to grow, for ponds to fill, for creeks to flow (for very long). Sure, it made getting around – driving and hiking – a piece of cake, but in the case of Colorado (and much of the Rocky Mountain West), where we absolutely depend on winter white for summer green, it was looking bleak. I had hiked out to an area where a couple of bands were grazing, and later, as they started to line out toward a pond, back toward the road, I meandered along with them. … And then the sky exploded. When that happens, you’re a) glad you’re with mustangs, b) ecstatic to see Mother Nature’s art come to life and c) uber-aware of time and how it flies. The horses were following a trail, so I picked a likely spot and left the trail and set up the shot. As the horses trotted by – following some and followed by others – I hoped I remembered everything about photography that I’d ever learned … and then I hoped the computer would reveal that everything had literally trotted into place in even one rectangular, finite image. … Voila. 🙂



Most people know that, as a volunteer for BLM, I dart (some of) the mares of Spring Creek Basin every spring with fertility-control vaccine PZP. Does it work? In September, we will celebrate a full decade of NO ROUNDUPS in Spring Creek Basin. Do we still have foals? Yes, a handful or so every year. I have my own reasons for not showing them on the blog. PZP figures into this explanation because Sundance is the band stallion of the mare I darted the day I took this photo. It’s worth slowing down, even in the face of a job to be done, to appreciate peace … and the mustangs who bring so much peace to me.



Speaking of foals, this is our first of the year. Born on Easter Sunday, she is mother Mariah’s second foal. I moseyed about with them for a fair amount of time as they grazed. As the sun was nudging the far western rim of our little world, the horses paused on a ridge trail on their way to water, and Mariah checked that all was well with her baby girl. The most fleeting moment in time. The most beautiful. The most treasured. … The most natural that goes on around the world with mothers and babies of every hue and color and species. Because I know this mother and this baby, that one moment seemed super, ultra, amazingly special.



This – THIS! – was one of those astounding moments when you literally are in the most best place at the very most bestest time, and you cannot believe your luck and goodness and that karma is smiling on you. … And then the horses won’t cooperate. 🙂 There was not one but TWO utterly spectacular rainbows against a sky promising even more rain (the second arch was out of the frame to the right). It was windy, and the horses were edgy. There were (and are) a couple of bachelors with the band, and that energy, combined with the storm, meant that they really weren’t in the mood to line up with ears up showing perfect conformation stances against the wild wonder of Spring Creek Basin and a rare rainfall. … So I “caught” them as they were walking on, and it was enough to remember the day and their wildness and their freedom to move under the magic.



This is an image that happened almost without me being there to see it, let alone capture it on digital media. I was with a couple of bachelors on a hill far, far (enough) away, thinking they were my last quiet visit of the evening. But one of the bachelors was interested in something besides me (ah, the story of my single life!), and as he focused on *it*, I heard a sudden, sharp whinny in the distance. One whinny, three bands – plus a bachelor after my guy trotted out to meet them. I had to hustle back to the Jeep and drive closer, and then hurry out to them as the sun was sinking (neither planetary roll nor mustang waits for the photographer to get her act together – or close the gap in distance). And although it was terribly dry in June (as it had been and would be), it’s not often (almost never) that enough horses are together – and moving enough – to cause enough dust to rise for a shot like this to even be possible in the basin. So, even from drought, something beautiful.



Maybe readers know (or maybe they don’t) that Storm is one of my very best most absolute favoritest stallions in the basin. From the time he appeared with his curled ear tips, big blaze, stockings almost to his hocks and shining like a polished penny next to his mother, still with the blood of his birth on her hocks and tail, he has had my heart curled around his perfect hooves. … Which means that – of course – Storm’s band is one of, if not THE, most elusive bands in the basin (!). Every sighting of them is like a dream. That said, I spent a fair amount of time with them this summer, and they led me into some heretofore rarely visited areas and showed me seeps I never knew existed. Though there are few of our iconic landmarks in the great expanse of background in this photo (Filly Peak and Flat Top are there), the soft light (we did have some smoke this summer …) and Storm’s handsome face alert as he checked on his band members, already at the top of a ridge that he was grazing his way up, seem to represent everything that I love about Spring Creek Basin and its wildest back of beyond.



Did someone mention smoke? Haze from wildfires burning, burning, burning in Colorado and across the West was the story of our summer in some (many) ways. The drought that allowed (caused!) the fires to start and burn was unrelenting and brutal (and is ongoing). Still, the mustangs persevered and continued to show their resilience and beauty. Piedra, loveliest of mares, is a goddess of grace. Another image of beauty plucked from a reality not so pretty.



In September, the heat starts to relent, the angle of light starts its descent, and still we pray for rain. The band I was with this day was grazing their way across a hillside, above an arroyo. The stallion had descended to the arroyo, and a couple of mares had followed and were already across. I looked up to check on this mare and her yearling, and though I couldn’t see beyond the scree of rock where they stood, apparently she didn’t like the look of what SHE could see. Here, she’s turning around, so after I took this shot, I went farther down the hill with the others to encourage her to find a path she liked better. Not long after this, that ol’ sun disappeared behind the long ridge on the other side of this narrow valley, and the golden light was dimmed at the close of another day.



In October, we got a heavy, wet snowstorm that lasted roughly half a second. … OK, maybe a liiiiitttttttttttlllle longer than that (but not by much). The ponies did as the ponies do, and soon, they were grazing about in mud, not snow, and I like to think none of us minded one little bit. Although it makes the camera hunt for auto-focus, I love to be out with the horses while it’s snowing because in addition to the flakes in the air and on the horses’ noses and eyelashes, it’s just plain beautiful.



Lingering snow, lengthening drought, a mature stallion and an up-n-comer. Life goes on, even as the calendar’s days get shorter. In all these years of photographing the mustangs, it is the late – and late-in-the-year – light that I love the best. If I worry and fret (and I do) about lack of moisture and what the coming days and seasons and year will bring, still, I seek that beauty and these amazing horses that allow me brief visits and journeys along their paths – even, sometimes, while they are making the tracks. In my fortunate gratitude, I even find it.



We might even close out 2020 with (a little) snow on the ground, and how wonderful would that be? I like to start the year with the things I hope to fill/find/expand on in the coming year, so horses, and snow, and love, and beauty, and days in Spring Creek Basin surely are on my agenda (which I try not to make!). As the soft light filtered through a smokeless sky on this day in December, the horses browsed for the dry stuff palatable enough to eat through the thin blanket of snow. They didn’t seem to mind the cold, or that maybe there was a bit less than in some previous years, or that a human being moseyed along with them, steadying a clicking black box on a black stick, sometimes talking, sometimes singing, mostly wondering how I could be so blessed in this life.



Because who doesn’t like – or need – a little extra? And to leave you with a hopeful thought: Just when you think it can’t get any better … maybe it can. 🙂


Thank you *all* for reading along and following the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin. Together, we are a community of people who value wild life and all the beauty that unfolds within it.

Word of the day: Rain

29 12 2020

It’s hard to impossible to tell in this photo of Killian below Brumley Point, but it was raining, and it was muddy and getting muddier.

Yes, yes, we do love the moisture. 🙂

Mr. Fuzz

28 12 2020

One of the coolest things about pintos is that you can SEE their wintry, velveteen lusciousness in the border between white and their other color (!). Corazon was quite at his leisure on this sunny winter day in Spring Creek Basin.

What cold?!

Half light

27 12 2020

Still so lovely in the setting-sun shadow of Round Top, Gaia watches a nearby band.

Two days of wind and more than our allotted share of sunshine means that our lovely snow is melting. We’re watching the forecast and hoping for more snow before the old year ends.

A little Christmas magic

26 12 2020

Early Christmas morning, we had a faint little sundog keeping company with the rising sun, just above Temple Butte.

Merry Christmas

25 12 2020

May all the magic of this season flow from our hearts to yours on this day of blessings and great hope for the world.

Merry Christmas Eve

24 12 2020

Bright day and merry night to you all!

Gold on silver

23 12 2020

No matter how cold the air, the LIGHT … the light is divine on the dark mustang.

Solstice past

22 12 2020

The longest night of the year is past, and now days will get longer and longer – though maybe not warmer and warmer for at least another little while yet. 🙂

Sundance carries the shortest day in grand fashion – as always!